Talking Feminism with Stephanie Drury

I’d be hard pressed to choose a word that best describes Stephanie Drury. Polarizing? Embattled? Fearless? I don’t know. If you asked 100 people, you’d get 100 different answers.

Stephanie runs Stuff Christian Culture Likes (@StuffCCLikes), a Facebook page for people who’ve been hurt by evangelical culture (and there are a lot). She also runs @FakeDriscoll, a Twitter account that satirizes evangelicalism’s own pugnacious poster boy, Mark Driscoll.

Sure, she’s irreverent, sardonic, and mercurial. But I’ve also found her to be thoughtful, wise, and, at rare moments when she reveals her cards, incredibly sensitive—maybe too sensitive for the kind of battles she’s constantly embroiled in.

There’s at least one watchdog group out there cataloging her sins (and it’s not the group of evangelicals you would assume). The truth is that you don’t put irrelevant people under that kind of scrutiny.

One thing I find particularly interesting about Steph is her mirror-like quality; you look at her work and you see reflections of yourself. That’s why atheists tend to think she belongs to them and evangelicals believe her to be a Christian and call her online efforts a “ministry.” This speaks to a very special talent of hers (the kind that you might find in . . . say . . . The Simpsons) to liberally spread out her scorn. It’s not all aimed in one direction; she practices an equal opportunity form of impertinence.

Right or wrong, she’s not afraid of playing the modern Hester Prynne if the situation calls for it—and that’s the kind of courageousness we all need more of.

Drury on Feminism

She recently responded to guy who was asking a fairly good question about how men should comment on feminist concerns (even when they support them). When it comes to feminism should men be quiet? Do our opinions matter? I thought her response was reasonable, and it got me thinking about the ways that I’m a chauvinist jerk without realizing it.

I decided to go ask Steph myself. Here’s how that went:

At the end of your Tumblr response, you suggested two postures men could take that would help them recognize how they’re contributing to patriarchal culture. The first was to make space to consider ways that they have marginalized women without being aware of it, and the second was a willingness to be wrong.

What’s interesting to me in those examples is that they’re so passive—and maybe that’s what makes them so important. How do you feel when you see men self-identifing as “feminists” and trying and take up the mantle on your behalf?  

I appreciate men who want to take up the mantle for equality. I think they truly want to help and they’re doing what they know to do, which is be proactive. The tricky thing is, as necessary as proactivity is, it isn’t always what will help marginalized voices be heard. Because we live in a patriarchy, men (and women) will give more weight to men’s words than to women’s, and so many times what I say is not heard by men until another man comes and tells them the same thing. I can’t tell you how often this has happened since I started actively noticing it. I can only imagine how much it’s happened over my lifetime before I became aware of it.

So to answer your question, proactivity is (ironically) necessary to help men realize the need for passivity in regards to civil rights. And becoming aware of the need introduces the paradox of men’s need for passivity, which comes down to being aware of how the people around them are experiencing things.

I’m thinking through a million business, church, and even family meetings for times where I’ve dismissed or ignored a female voice. Although I’m positive it’s happened, I’m not sure I recognize it in retrospect. In your experience, what does it look like when it happens? I would imagine that it’s covered with layers of patronizing behavior, but what can I look for in gatherings to help me recognize it more. Are there tell-tale comments, gestures, or postures?

Painting by http://robinmarsh.com/

Painting by http://robinmarsh.com/

Right? It’s so ingrained it is that it’s hard to identify, and that’s also what makes it so insidious. And the gross irony is that when men talk about giving women a platform they often have a self-referential posture of “look how progressive I am being.” I see that so often in progressive Christendom. The true tell is seeing how they interact with women as opposed to how they interact with men. Just be aware of how you see it playing out in others (men and women) and in yourself. Look and see who talks more and the posture and tone they take when they speak. Women are often quieter and more hesitant and men are much more comfortable and entitled with taking the floor. Men tend to assume everyone is interested in their opinions, and it’s fascinating to see this in action once you look for it. It makes you feel like you’re living in a ridiculous parody, which is really entertaining and also really sad.

I was talking with someone about this yesterday, and he said “So what I’m hearing is, as a guy, I just shouldn’t talk.” But I would not say to “just don’t talk” at all. What I would say is to be aware of who you are with and of what others could be experiencing, and to be aware of the fact that you are already in the default position (not by any fault of your own, you were just born a straight white dude) of your voice carrying much more weight than those you are with who are not also white males.

And if you call yourself a Christian, be cognizant of the fact that Jesus modeled heartache-driven compassion in his acts of feminism. Keep that as your focus. Don’t focus on a specific mandate as “just don’t talk.” That will just make you feel like a martyr and will distract you from the true purpose of feminism, which is wholeness and equality.

I’m always blown away by the defensiveness that bubbles to the surface when men hear the word feminism. Most men wouldn’t say, “Yep, I’m a chauvinist,” yet chauvinism is everywhere. If I want to be more self aware, where do I start? How do I begin to take a personal inventory to honestly discern just how sexist I truly am?

Yeah, the patriarchy created that reaction. The empire doesn’t like being called on its bullshit so it instilled fear of overthrow for the people in power. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s really not. The patriarchy is quite Orwellian in how it’s gained ground—its deepest harm is in its subtlety.

To take inventory of our own sexism, pay attention to how you interact with women as opposed to how you interact with men. How would you respond if a woman spoke to you in the same way as that man just spoke to you? How do you feel knowing that bad driver is a man and not a woman? Are you inclined to think he’s got somewhere important to go and is in a hurry? Do you think that women is just zoning out or otherwise ditzy? That sort of thing. Pay attention to each interaction you have and observe your gut responses to people, then switch genders.

There’s a real movement (from both men and some women) to dismiss or shut feminism down. I sometimes feel that’s based on a misunderstanding of who feminists are and what feminists really want. I don’t want to put you in the untenable position of defining such a broad movement, but what is feminism to Stephanie Drury?

It’s about being truly equal. That’s all.

There you have it. A big thanks to St. Drury for entertaining my questions.

If you would like to chime in with your $.02, I’d love to hear it.

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